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Ben-Tzion Spitz
Ben-Tzion Spitz
Former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay

Comfortable Exile (Vaera)

 The comfort zone takes our greatest aspirations and turns them into excuses for not bothering to aspire. -Peter McWilliams

The Jewish people were enslaved by the Egyptians for centuries. The Chidushei HaRim on Exodus 6:6 wonders not so much as to how the Jewish people endured, but how did they leave? He picks out an interesting nuance from the text.

God says to the Jewish nation in Egypt, “And I will take you out from under the labors of Egypt.” The key word in Hebrew is “sivlot” which is commonly translated in this context as “labors.” The Chidushei HaRim reads “sivlot” as bearing, as in they were bearing the pain of Egypt. The verse would then read “And I will take you out from bearing the pain of Egypt.”

The Chidushei HaRim explains that the Jewish people had adjusted to their exile and their enslavement. They had learned to bear it. In a certain sense they had even become comfortable with their slavery. We see multiple indications of that later during the desert journey, when at the first whiff of trouble or challenge or hardship, the people complain and want to go back to Egypt.

God is telling them, “I’m going to make your enslavement unbearable.” And indeed, He does, as Moses’ involvement initially ratchets up Pharoah’s crackdown on the Jewish people. Overnight, the Egyptians stop providing the Jews with straw for the brick production, whilst still demanding that the Jews keep the daily quotas intact. The Jewish people had thought that their enslavement was bearable and didn’t want to rock the boat of their relations with the Egyptians, as we see in the Jewish taskmasters’ complaint about Moses’ intervention. God sets plans in motion to make the enslavement unbearable, to make the Jewish people ready to leave their previously comfortable enslavement.

The Chidushei HaRim stresses that when Jews decide that they can endure exile, if Jews decide that they are not ready to leave the comfort of their golden exile, redemption will never come.

May we always be prepared to transition from comfort to redemption.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the Hebrew word of the year — tirlul, translated as “lunacy.”

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay and a candidate for the Knesset for the Zehut party. He is the author of three books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.
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